Rudy Salas, the Latin soul of LA's Eastside, dies at 71
The emblematic guitarist, who experimented with soul and Latin jazz since the seventies alongside his brother, founded legendary bands such as Tierra and El Chicano.
Rudy Salas, the well-known guitarist and soul of the sonic avant-garde for nearly 50 years in Los Angeles' Eastside died last Tuesday, Dec. 29, at age 71, first reported the LA Times. Salas was the founder of iconic bands of the genre like Tierra and El Chicano.
His death is unrelated to COVID-19 and is pending a more comprehensive report. The band Tierra issued a statement on Facebook to confirm the news and expressed support and affection to his friends and surviving family — a wife and two children, one of whom was returning from celebrating his wedding anniversary in Las Vegas.
"Feels so good to be loved so bad" was one of his songs from the album Welcome to Cafe East L.A. (2005) and a great summary of the reactions on social media to the death of a figure with almost half a century of hits and instant classics.
Many of those classics continue to be heard and remixed by Latinos and Americans alike.
Salas started with El Chicano in the late 1960s with a particular "Eastside" approach that experimented with funk, salsa and jazz. At the time, they were an important part of the emerging civil rights movement as part of large demonstrations that made their music a symbol of rebellion.
In 1970, he founded an R&B band, Tierra, with his brother Steve Salas (trombone and percussion), former members of El Chicano Andre Baeza, David Torres, and new blood in Bobby Navarrete or Joey Guerrera. The new group further expanded the sounds of Hispanic soul.
Its commercial success came in 1973, when they pioneered signing with a company like 20th Century Records and reached the 18th spot in Billboard's Hot 100 list in 1980 with their remake of "Together" by The Intruders, originally released in 1967.
The band's stature as artists perfectly illuminates the sonic incarnation of Chicano melodies — totally American, but with the throbbing consciousness of Mexican descent.
Rudy and Steve were born in Lincoln Heights and grew up in Los Angeles without speaking Spanish. Gradually, the pair soaked up the family atmosphere, leaving them a mixture and accents that echo in "Cumbia del Sol" or "Old School Jamz."
In 2002 Tierra returned to the studio in spite of the death of three members. Little by little, they continued publishing albums thanks to Rudy's perseverance.
In December of 2020, they promised new music for 2021, but now it remains to be seen if the project will be able to survive without a fundamental pillar.
As his family prays, Chicano music fans pay tribute to the Eastside patron.